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[sticky post] Notes to Self about Writing Life

1. Just be yourself. Don't schmooze, don't obssess, don't get weird, don't get all theater. It's served you well, being yourself all this time. Stick with it.

2. Just write. Keep at it steadily, keep at it carefully. Do it conscientiously, do it to the best of your ability.

3. See number one again, especially when you feel insecure about number 2.

4. Believe you have a story to tell. Then don't put it off. Tell it.

5. Accept that some people will like your work, some people will not like your work, and that's okay. You write because you have a story to tell. It's nice if someone will read your story, but if they don't, well, not everyone in the world or even the Western hemisphere is going to read your story. And that is okay.

6. Writing can change the world, but is not the most important job anyone will ever have on the planet. You are not telling deep truths about the universe. You are telling a story. Get over yourself.

7. See number one and number three again, just in case you need a reality check. Never believe your own press.

8. Keep doing something you enjoy that keeps you in touch with people and makes you feel that you are making a contribution to the world, because you can turn into a mushroom if you're writing only. A strange, weird, psychologically fungal mushroom, I might add. And then you might drink.

9. Do not pass judgment on the writing of others. Do not compare your writing to the writing of others. You can have opinions about things you read, but unless you are asked, you might want to keep them to yourself, especially where other writers are concerned. Play nice.

10. Expect others to play nice with you. Avoid pseudo intellectuals and non constructive critics. Hell, you don't need them. You have your worst critic, yourself, to contend with already.

11. The industry is not the measure of your success. Attention is not the measure of your success. Of course you want to send your work out, make smart marketing decisions, and try to share. The measure of your success is stories written and sent. You can't convince the world it wants your work, but you certainly can't do anything at all unless you're telling stories.

12. Realize that success in writing, like success in anything, is really more about persistance than anything else. Write, learn to market selectively and well, and then market selectively and well. There will be a learning curve. You will battle obscurity. You will make mistakes and get rejections. BUT eventually you'll have enough circulating and people will know who you are, and you'll learn the tricks, and your writing will line up with someone's taste, and more and more things will be accepted.

13. See 1, 3, and 7 again, especially in moments of personal angst.

14. See 2 and 4 again, especially in moments of procrastination.

15. See 4, 5, 9, and 11 again, especially in moments where you lack faith.

16. See 5, 9, and 10 to remind yourself of grace.

17. See 6, 7 and 10 to remind yourself that you're not curing cancer.

18. See 8 to maintain your balance.

19. See 12 when you feel like giving it up.

20. If you're not satisified anymore, if it's causing you consternation, cease. Walk away. Writing is important. A happy life is much more important than that. Anything must give you joy for you to continue it. Don't settle.

J.Kathleen Cheney New Short Fiction

You might remember J. Kathleen Cheney from several reviews on this blog, and a podcast over at Unreliable Narrators. Recently, she has decided to begin self-publishing on her own. She made an interesting decision to mostly self-publish, and I believe as a reader it's paying off.

I've been lucky enough to receive two of Cheney's recent publications. Whatever Else explores the boundaries of trust in a relationship. It is lyrical and beautiful rendered, typical of Cheney's romantic prose.

The revelation for me was Cheney's interconnected series of short stories collected in The Dragon's Child. An interesting mix of Russian and Chinese culture, the story is different in mood and tone from anything I've read of Cheney's yet, but it is still very good. I would recommend it if you would like your fantasy to be a bit more off the beaten path.

One of the benefits of writing novellas is that the writer can create faster, and Cheney's fans must be pleased with more available stories. I of course look forward to future novels, but encourage you to visit her website to check out her new offerings.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Characters Who Breathe: Amy Dorrit

I didn't come across Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens until later in my life, I liked to read more Dickens than the average teen, but this was not a book I ran across until I saw the film that featured Derek Jacobi in the 1990s. Then I went and hunted down the book. The BBC recently did an adaption of the book that was more accurate, with excellent leads.

There are so many ways in which I identify with Amy Dorrit that I was bound to pick her as a character I felt was alive. I could also write a similar post about Arthur Clennam, the male lead in the book, as I grow older, but Amy's particular circumstances, while not an exact mirror of my own, bore enough similarities that I was riveted by her.

Amy grew up in a debtor's prison with an extremely dysfunctional family, one so rich that it had no idea how to be poor. Amy was born in the Marshallsea Prison and took care of them all, until, through the ouevres of a large Dickensian support cast, the family fortune was reacquired. Then Amy becomes an embarrassment to them all. Of course, in true Dickensian fashion, Amy is almost saintly as she takes care of her family, but there are these glimpses underneath of anger, exasperation, and confusion as she deals with a family who suddenly sees her many virtues as flaws. Unrequited love echoes through the novel as well, and Amy is made more interesting by the complex emotions she feels for the hero of the novel that she cannot realize, at first because she is in the lowest class, and then in the highest.

I would love to talk about Little Dorrit deep into the night with anyone. Such a good protrayal of some of the issues of its time is worth my time. That said, there are flaws. There's some deeply Dickensian...coincidence that dates the novel, so you want to watch out.

Full disclosure: Octavia and Lucia Klaereon are the mirror universe versions of Fanny and Amy Dorrit. The best work you read influences your writing.

Next up: Taichi Keaton

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Characters Who Breathe: Enola Holmes

Happy October, everyone! This week has been fraught with peril. Okay, not really fraught, mind, but I had a sick day and a thing that lasted for about four days, and I am beginning to have trouble with my eyes from working all day with the computer, and then working a great deal at night on the computer. Mostly, I blame my cell phone, which has tiny characters, and upon which I will be spending LESS time.

Interesting trivia fact about me. I have brain damage. When I was young, my left eye developed the wrong focal point. Back in the 70s, we didn't prevent this from happening by putting the pirate patch over the weaker eye until it straightened itself out. So I have one good, full time eye that does all the work, and one part time eye, which does what it damn well feels like. The freeloader. Both eyes are pretty and look healthy, but my right eye is really feeling the strain of an office career AND a writer career. Add in the stress of focus shift as we age, and it's not too hard to understand why my eyes hurt.

Liberal amounts of eye drops aside, I've been doing some research. Every year in the spring, my vision insurance allows me basic new lenses. This year I will be looking into blue light reduction lenses. Meanwhile, I'm dimming the lights, the computer screens, and trying to spend less time on computers, and the time I do spend with bigger print. I am going to try to more or less abandon my cellphone back to once a day checks. Because ouch.


But here's why you are here today. Let's talk about Enola Holmes from the Enola Holmes mysteries by Nancy Springers. Many of you may not have read about Enola, because she is a middle-grade character. Her books are delightful. The basic story of Enola is that she is Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes' little sister. Lest that turn you off as too derivative, let me assure you that your middle grade child (or you) will find her genuine and sincere. There are also many puzzles and codes in the books to maintain the air of mystery.

Enola runs away from home early in the series, due to a very peculiar circumstance, in order to save herself from the fate of young Victorian women. She has been raised by an unconventional mother and decides she would be better to strike off on her own after her mother leaves her. No points for Mom, mind, but it is the catalyst for the story. Enola proves as successful as her brothers at deduction and daring-do, but she does not fall into many of the adventure cliches. She disguises herself as an adult, but does not decide to masquerade as a boy. She hides behind many disguises and invents people to legitimize the businesses she runs. Of course, as the books progress, we discover that she hasn't fooled as many people as she thinks she has, but she develops a loyal cadre of friends, and in the end proves herself.

Like many books with living characters, Enola narrates her own story, so we see the insides of her, her doubts and feelings about her situation. She is very genuine and multi-faceted. The books are short, and I would recommend you read the whole series if you can, but the first and the last are good bookends to capture the breadth of the character. So, go read them.

Next up in a couple of weeks: Little Dorrit

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

I don't know if you've heard me say this before, but just in case, this is my number one ambition as a writer: to have a character who lives. One who lives so well that you know the character, even if you don't know me. You know what I'm talking about. Those books where you talk about the character like they are a person and the author seldom comes up. The essence of being a fan.

I've read a lot of very worthy books over the years by many excellent writers. Having a character who lives (to me) beyond the scope of the book is not the only hallmark of excellent work, but since this is my ultimate goal creatively, I thought I would talk about some of the characters (and the people who have written them) who have made me want this goal. These characters will span 51 years of reading. Some of them are new to me, and some have been with me a very long time.

Currently, I am reading another of Ben Aaronovitch's Peter Grant mysteries: Whispers Underground. Peter Grant is a living character. Living characters do not have to be written in first person, but Peter is. He has a good sense of humor. I know about his family, what he thinks about his job, how he feels about his friends, and I have some pretty good guesses on how he spends his spare time. I've seen him cool under pressure, quick to investigate, and heartbroken about love gone wrong. He feels real to me.

Of course, all that depth to Peter is supported by good story. The initial book of Peter's series Midnight Riot is uniquely British, which appeals to me as a half-British kid. Peter is protagonist of color, a white jazzman from England for a dad and a black cleaning woman from Sierra Leone for a mom. The hybridization of these cultures, as well as his familial legacy, resounds in almost every decision Peter makes. While Midnight Riot depends on plot and introduces Peter, in Moon Over Soho Peter becomes resoundingly a character who breathes, as we see him deal with the aftermath of something terrible that happens to his friend Leslie in the first book, we see him work with his new abilities, and we see him fall in love. And now, as I read Whispers Underground I see Peter grow and become even more.

The best part of a series sometimes is that a writer does have the opportunity to make a character familiar and alive, and while it can also be done in a single book, still that leisure to explore is, I think, one of the best ways to create a memorable character.

In two weeks: Enola Holmes.

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

Unreliable Narrators Posts 9-12-16

And here's the Unreliable Posts from the last time we talked.

Attack of the Kaiju: We talk about all things giant monster, and some things not.

Book Review--The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders. George reviews a book!

Mirrored from Writer Tamago.

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